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Fall Garden Cleanup

There’s a chill in the air and there’s no doubt that fall is on the way. For most of us, the garden has at least started to die back, and for the rest of us, it’s completely brown and wilted save for those cold weather harvests. You may think that your gardening chores are over for the year but you’d be wrong. What you do with your garden cleanup now will have an effect on how your garden performs next spring. So follow these tips to ensure a happy and healthy spring flower or vegetable garden.

Out With the Old.

Go through your garden beds and clear out any remaining foliage. If it is healthy you can put it right into your compost pile. If there are any diseased plants, or if they were attacked by garden pests over the summer, be sure to put them into the trash. 

Deadhead the flowers in your flower bed and collect seed heads. These contain the dried seed that you’ll need to replant the same flowers next spring. You can also start the seeds indoors in late winter to ensure spring color as soon as possible. 

Mulch It!

Work mulch or compost into your garden soil. This will help “recharge it” for another season of growing. The mulch and compost will break down over the winter, leaving you a bed full of nutrients for next year. Add more mulch to your still active garden plants to extend your fall gardening growing season as long as possible. Some plants when properly cared for can last long enough for a winter garden harvest, so don’t skimp on the mulch for your beets, garlic, cabbage, carrots, and whatever else you have going in your fall/winter garden. 

Leaves. Leaves Everywhere.

While it’s tempting to get out your leaf blower and start piling up those fall leaves, consider the benefits that leaving fallen leaves alone can have. Our gardens are havens for beneficial insects and animals of all kinds. Leaving at least some of the leaves in the place where they fall can give them a safe place to overwinter. While it’s tempting to go all out with your fall cleanups, leaving at least some of the garden intact isn’t the worst idea. Don’t forget: you can use some of the leaves that you do pick up as compost and mulch. 

Wrap ‘em Up.

If you have delicate trees and shrubs you may want to wrap them in burlap to help protect against winter winds and heavy ice. While this is not a bad idea, it’s important to remember to trim and prune any dead or diseased branches first. For spring-blooming perennials now is the time to cut them back without risking blooms. 

Clean Your Tools!

Finally, when you’re all done, you should give your garden tools a good cleaning and/or sharpening. Wash any remaining soil off and give them a soak in soapy water. Then rinse and thoroughly dry your tools. Use a wire brush to remove any rust; a light coating of vegetable oil will help you to loosen it. Finally, make a mix of 2 cups chlorine bleach to one gallon of water and dip your tools. Let them soak for at least 10 minutes to kill bacteria and fungi that can spread from one diseased plant to another come spring. Once they’ve soaked be sure to dry them COMPLETELY before putting them away for next spring.